Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Missed an option....

I think this guy doesn't understand logic as much as he thinks. I can come up with at least a couple of different options that he left out:
  • God does not always use natural or man-made catastrophes to punish people for moral failings. I don't know if Katrina was the wrath of God. But it's clear that God does not punish every moral failing with a natural disaster. Every human being on the face of the planet has experienced moral failing, yet the vast majority of us survived Katrina. Indeed, most of us survive any natural disaster. It seems pretty evident to me that it's a bad assumption that God always uses natural disasters to punish moral failings.

  • Maybe God did use a natural disaster to destroy Bourbon St. Despite being relatively unscathed Bourbon St. is still in significant trouble. How many customers has it served in the last several days? How long do you think it will be before any of it's services are reopened? Even if this isn't physical destruction, the effects are the same.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Social Institution of Marriage

This is a compelling argument. It definately moves me off of my "on the fence" stance w.r.t. what marriage means in a society.
The editors of the Nation, for instance, support gay marriage but do not usually defend the sanctity of contracts. This apparent paradox evaporates when we realize that the dissolution of marriage breaks the family into successively smaller units that are less able to sustain themselves without state assistance.
The basic idea here is that by dissolving marriage, it puts a greater dependancy on the state. Or put another way, if you want to create and support a large central government, one way to accomplish that is to dissolve any meaning behind marriage. The resulting society will be much more dependant on the state for resolution of even trivial disputes. Disputes that are less intrusively resolved in an organic marriage.
The modern claim that there need not be and should not be any social or legal preference among sexual or childrearing contexts is, by definition, the abolition of marriage as an institution. This will be a disaster for the cause of limited government. Disputes that could be settled by custom will have to be settled in court. Support that could be provided by a stable family must be provided by taxpayers. Standards of good conduct that could be enforced informally must be enforced by law.
This is a very interesting premise that the author (Jennifer Roback Morse) does a good job of explaining. I highly recommend reading the whole thing.

My vote for the most insiteful comment:
An appreciation of voluntary cooperation between men and women, young and old, weak and strong, so natural to libertarians and economists, is completely absent from this statist worldview.

This is why it is no accident that the advocates of sexual laissez-faire are the most vociferous opponents of economic laissez-faire.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Ideal Parents?

Jane Galt has an article on gay adoption. One of the comments made is this:
This is not in any way to say that gay adoption is a bad idea; the gay couples I know who have adopted are all ideal parents.
I'm so on the fence on this issue of gay marriage and gay adoption. On the one hand I don't undertand any reason why it ought to be wrong. But it still strikes me that it is. And, as a Christian, I believe in the veracity of a bible that says it is.

But ignoring the moral platitudes, how can gay parents be ideal parents? I've commentted on this before. How can two gay men be ideal parents for (e.g.) a heterosexual girl? Where is the role model that the child has in her life? Or where is the appropriate role model for the heterosexual son of a lesbian couple?

That being said, I'm sure that the exercise of effective parenting skills is not endemic to heterosexual parents. But I think it's a far stretch to say that a gay couple can be an "ideal" parent. Ideally, children have role models in their lives and it strikes me that gay couples are very likely to be less than ideal.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Economics and Parenting Cross Paths

Marginal Revolution has an entry about tantrums. The basic idea is that the tantrum is a status symbol. If you are able to have a tantrum, it means that you are in a higher social status than the rest of us.
CEOs throw more tantrums than mailboys. Similarly movie stars, sports stars, and politicians throw more tantrums than ordinary people in those industries. Also famous for their tantrums: spoiled young wives, bigshot patriarchs, elite travelers, and toddlers.
The last entrant may seem surprising, but...
Parents mostly serve toddlers, not the other way around.
What does this mean? It means that Foster Cline and Jim Fay are right. But it also means that they're more than just astute parents; they're astute economists. If you want to change the behavior of the toddlers, change the incentive structure.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


I've written in other places on the stupidity of municipal broadband. Russ Roberts has taken his shot. My favorite part:
If you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Spending money is the hammer of politics.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Repeal the "Death" Tax? Phooey!

I'm not a big fan of political correctness. I don't like the idea of simply changing the name of something in order to give it a better spin. The problem with people who suffer from an ailment isn't in the name of the thing they suffer. It's the ailment itself. Telling someone that they're handicapped instead of crippled is not going to change their ailment. All that's going to happen is that the negative connotations of the old name will eventually transfer to the new name. Hence we now have "handicapable". I don't know what the next iteration will be, but I'm sure that it's coming.

So it's with a bit of trepidation that I criticize the name of something. But I personally can't stand the name "Death Tax". The people who make the argument that you're taxing death are as wrong headed as can be, and they've chosen a name that tries to convey something that isn't real. It's no more respectful to the dead to take their money than it is to leave it alone. The dead don't care anymore about their money: they're dead. The estate tax does NOT tax the dead. It taxes the living who inherit the estates.

But, unlike other taxes, it's acutely destructive. Other taxes, while being destructive, are much slower. A person who gives up 20% of their annual income loses a lot of money over their lifetime. But that destruction takes place only a little bit at a time. The estate tax, however, happens all at once: when a person dies. This has the impact of destroying, in one fell swoop, the thing that a lifetime had built up.

The effect of this destruction is most evident when you talk about how the estate tax impacts farmers. Farmers are small business owners. This particular small business requires an enormous amount of capital be effective. Land, machinery, storage facilities, processing facilities, etc. As a consequence, most of the wealth built into a farm is not in the form of liquid assets. When a farmer dies, the inheritors of that farm are suddenly subject to a huge tax burden. Most of the time, the inheritors do not have the cash assets to pay the tax. The only mechanism available is usually to change the non-liquid assets into cash by liquidating the assets. One person buys the land, someone else buys the equipment, etc. The resulting cash is then used to pay the tax. Even if the inheritors wanted to keep the business running, they usually can't.

The result of the tax is that a farm, which had been built up over a lifetime, is destroyed by tax policy. The estate tax is the easiest example of how tax policy destroys private property. If the government just took a bulldozer and razed 45% of the farm, we'd all be rightfully enraged with the government. We'd be calling for reforms and restrictions on the power of the government. Estate taxes do the exact same thing as bulldozering 45% of a farm, and we should be equally outraged and calling for restrictions on the power of the government, and an abolishment of such a destructive policy.

Unfortunately, farms are not the only private property destroyed by tax policy. And the estate tax is not the only tax policy that destroys private property. All taxation destroys private property. It's just that with the estate tax it's much easier to see the destruction. And lest you get too cozy with the destruction of private property, much rides on strong private property rights.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Does it pay to be a flirt?

According to CNN the answer is no. Unfortunately, that article doesn't give enough information to identify whether it's true or not. The only data cited in the article is this:
The respondents who said they never engaged in such activity earned an average of three promotions, versus two for the group that had employed sexuality. Those who said they never used sexuality were, on average, in the $75,000-$100,000 income range; the other group fell, on average, into the next range, $50,000 to $75,000.
That's way less than enough information to come up to this conclusion:
Women who cross their legs provocatively, wear short skirts or massage a man's shoulders at work get fewer pay raises and promotions
The appropropiate comparison isn't between women who flirt and women who don't flirt. You need to know how well the women who flirted would do if they didn't flirt. And you need to know how well the women who didn't flirt would do if they did. In other words, they haven't controlled for a variable. The explanation of the data may very well be that the women who didn't flirt didn't need to in order to advance their careers and the women who did flirt needed to.

Of course, I don't think that this type of behavior is appropriate at the office, but from the data presented, I don't think the conclusion can be drawn that it's ineffective. My problem is with the methodology of this study. I think they missed something. Or (hopefully) it was misreported.

My personal opinion is that it's likely that the conclusion of the story is true. If I'm a male manager concerned about profits, then I would think that a woman who feels the need to use sexual behavior is signaling her incompetance. In other words, if she uses this type of behavior it means she thinks its the only way to advance herself. In other words, she believes that her skills alone are insufficient to advance her careeer. On the other hand, she may be so convinced of sexism in the workplace. She may very well believe that her skills are sufficient, but that there's a glass ceiling for women and the only way to break it is to use sex. Personally, I don't know.

What I'm convinced of is that the article really sucks. There's not nearly enough information in it to even suggest the conclusion much less conclude it.

Update: The original article in USA Today is not much better. But it does have an interesting quote:
"Our story is really a feminist story, because we argue that there are negative consequences for women who use sexuality in the workplace," Brief says.
This strikes me as research with an agenda, but I'd like to read the entire paper before I decided that was true.